Time for IT managers to wise up

Corporate indifference to Internet technology is a serious problem, writes Mark Vernon

"If you are up to your posterior in alligators, then swamp drainage is not the most pressing topic for conversation." Thus Graham Brown, chief executive of Neaman Bond Associates, summed up the findings of a report for Computer Associates on corporate interest in the Internet. Continuing the trend of recent research bursting the Internet bubble, the report found that a majority of IT managers have more immediate concerns than an over-hyped and unreliable technology.

Neaman Bond questioned 134 IT managers and technology strategists in the corporate IT departments of typical UK and Irish Global 5000 organisations, across all industries. And they label 52 per cent of businesses "agnostics", having no Internet strategy at all, and a further 29 per cent as mere "information surfers" who regard the Internet as an emerging but immature communication and information resource.

It is in part the hype itself that has generated such resistance. For example, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the much-trumpeted success of the Web-based Amazon bookshop, the researchers came across traditional book retailers who had no hesitation in saying that the Internet has no part to play in their business. In fact, the research found that interest is at its lowest in retailing, with fewer than 10 per cent having a corporate Internet strategy.

The logic of cool commerce is at play here. Over the last six or seven years, control over the technology spend has moved out of IT departments to business directors, who are not seduced by new technology. It is tight cost justification that they require. This is hard enough to deliver for any innovative project, but is compounded in the case of IT. The language of "cost centres" preferred by the accountants misses the concept of "benefit centres", a better way to assess the advantages that IT-empowered knowledge workers can bring to business.

The report also found that many IT departments are simply preoccupied with existing demands. Mergers, migrations and day-to-day support absorb all their energies. The year 2000 problem and EMU compliance threaten on the horizon. And Brown highlights a final issue, referring to a conversation he had with a bank. "It had broken up its IT department in order to prepare for outsourcing, and in the process had alienated all concerned." Job insecurity does not inspire workers to offer imaginative suggestions for business development.

But he believes that part of the fault for the disconnection between business managers and technology innovators lies with the IT industry itself. He recollects Alan Bennett's comments on the evolution of institutions, when the people on the inside come to despise the people on the outside, even though they are the ones they work to serve. So it is with technology. A feeling of inferiority and insecurity has become pervasive amongst the laity, compounded by the superior attitude of the IT "high priests".

More specifically, within corporations two factors combine to sustain the sense of alienation. On the one hand, strategic IT is being evaluated too low in the organisation, by employees without the power to make decisions regarding its purchase. And on the other, those who are able to make decisions are not well enough informed about the benefits that the technology can bring, and so rather miss the point. This all contributes to a crisis in communication.

What has yet to happen is for directors to realise that Internet technologies hold solutions to the problems they are now facing. But the trouble is that it is still being sold as technology for technology's sake. In the same way that a Sega Saturn does not bill itself as a 32-bit RISC CH2 28.6 MHz processor, but as a great way to play games, so Internet technology such as modems, PCs and browsers must disappear into the background infrastructure, and the functionality it can deliver to the corporation must be brought to the foren

News
people
Sport
Newcastle players celebrate, Mario Balotelli scores, Alan Pardew and Brendan Rodgers
footballNewcastle vs Liverpool , Arsenal vs Burnley, Chelsea vs QPR and Everton vs Swansea
News
i100Amazing Amazon review bomb
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
News
Moss and Grimshaw arrive at the party
peopleKate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Grimshaw at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
News
i100
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Travel
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £100,000: SThree: If you would like to work fo...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission £100k +: SThree: Trainee Recru...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities